Facebook Journalism Project - COVID-19 Reporting

Facebook Journalism Project - COVID-19 Reporting

COVID CASES SOAR AS COUNTY REMAINS IN PURPLE TIER, RISK OF CLOSURES FOR BUSINESSES AND CHURCHES GROWS

 

To report violations of county health rules call (858) 694-2900 or email SafeReopeningComplianceTeam@sdcounty.ca.gov.

By Miriam Raftery

File photo from 2019: A shutdown could hit hardest in mountain towns such as Julian, where winter weather makes it difficult for businesses to operate outdoors.

November 9, 2020 (San Diego) – Churches, restaurants, gyms, theaters and some other locations will have to end indoor operations in San Diego County if the number of cases doesn’t drop out of the state’s purple tier soon. Retailers would have to reduce capacity.The state could order shutdowns as early as tomorrow.

Winter weather will make it harder for businesses and worship services to be conducted outdoors, particularly in East County’s mountain areas, which had their first snowfall of the season last night.

COVID-19 CASES SKYROCKET ACROSS U.S. DESPITE TRUMP CLAIM OF “TURNING CORNER”; PRESIDENT'S RALLIES SPREAD VIRUS AND CAUSED DEATHS, STUDY FINDS

Trump rallies caused over 30,000 COVID cases and 800 deaths, Stanford researchers find

By Miriam Raftery

November 1, 2020 (Washington D.C.) – On Friday, the U.S. reported 100,233 new coronavirus infections in a single day – the highest daily total ever for any nation, Reuters reports.  The spike belies President Donald Trump’s claim during last week’s debate when he stated, “We’re rounding the corner. It’s going away.” 

Every second, the U.S. is now adding a new coronavirus case, overwhelming hospitals in many cities.  USA Today reports that some hospitals are running out of beds and staffers; as a result, the situation is so dire that some hospitals report they may soon have to ration care. 

Despite surviving coronavirus himself, the President has refused to set a role model for others to avoid transmission. Shortly after leaving the hospital he resumed holding in-person rallies to large crowds,  most not wearing masks. Now, Stanford researchers have found that Trump’s rallies between June and September alone were directly responsible for 30,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 700 deaths – including deaths of people who never attended the rallies, but were exposed by Trump supporters who did attend, CNBC reports.

EAST COUNTY MAGAZINE WINS SEVEN AWARDS FROM SAN DIEGO PRESS CLUB

By Miriam Raftery

October 28, 2020 (San Diego) – East County Magazine writers and photographers picked up seven awards in the  San Diego Press Club’s 47th annual  Excellence in Journalism Awards. ECM’s winning entries included coverage of the May 30-31 riot and protest in La Mesa, Cajon Valley Union School District’s educational challenges during COVID-19 and controversial spending on promotional videos, the railway museum’s centennial celebration in Campo, and a column addressing health issues in local communities.

“I’m proud of our team of hard-working journalists, who went above and beyond the call of duty to report during tumultuous times,” says ECM editor Miriam Raftery. “I also want to thank the Facebook Journalism Project grant, which supports local journalism and funded our reporting on most of this year’s winning entries amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This year’s Press Club awards program drew more than 1,100 entries, making it one of the largest journalism competitions in the nation. Judges for the Press Club’s entries included members of 15 journalism professional organizations from around the country, including press clubs in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Rochester, Florida, Cleveland, Orange County, Milwaukee, Tulsa and Alaska.

ECM's  award-winners this year are editor Miriam Raftery, photojournalists Paul Kruze, Rebecca Jefferis-Williamson, Henri Migala, and Jake Rose, as well as columnists David Shorey and Paul Levikow.

LA MESA ADOPTS COMMUNITY POLICE OVERSIGHT BOARD

By Miriam Raftery
 
Photo: Councilmember Akilah Weber led efforts to establish the police oversight body
 
October 25, 2020 (La Mesa) – By a 3-2 vote on Oct. 13, the La Mesa City Council approved creation of a Community Police Oversight Board. The board is empowered to retain an independent police auditor and to direct investigation of serious incidents involving police, such as shootings or major misconduct complaints. 

NEW NATIONAL HOTLINE FOR MENTAL HEALTH CALLS APPROVED

By Miriam Raftery

October 24, 2020 (Washington D.C.) – Starting in July 2022, anyone in the U.S. will be able to dial 988 for help with a mental health emergency. President Donald Trump signed a bipartisan bill into law last week to create the three-digit number for a mental health crisis, similar to the 911 line now in use for all emergencies, on recommendation of the Federal Communications Commission.

COVID RATES REMAIN LOW IN MOST REOPENED EAST COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICTS

Cajon Valley, first to reopen, has most cases.  Three other districts report cases; others lack transparency in disclosure.  

Update October 31:  The Cajon Valley Union School District has added a breakdown by schools of its COVID cases, which now number 15 students and 2 employees  (17 total) at 11 schools. 

By Miriam Raftery

October 21, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – How safe is it to send your child back to school amid a pandemic, or for teachers to provide instruction inside classrooms?

East County Magazine has checked out the websites of all districts in East County to determine how many cases have been reported at schools that have reopened thus far, and how transparent each district is in making this information easily available to parents, teachers and staff.

To date, the County Public Health Department has not reported any outbreaks (defined as 3 or more cases tied to a single location) at any East County elementary, middle, high school or community college district. However some school districts do have cases among both students and staff. It is unclear whether cases were contracted on campus, or how many others may have been exposed.

In some districts, information on schools with COVID cases are being publicly disclosed, but not in others. Asked about this discrepancy, County spokesman Michael Workman said, "A change in the order regarding schools is being discussed and may be in place soon. The state guidance referenced above covers school notification. It’s too early to say what our health order change may say."

Here are the results of ECM's investigation.

HIGHLIGHTS AND VIDEOS OF ALL SIX LA MESA CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES

 

 

Updated with highlights from all three participating candidates' statements during the forum, plus links to interviews with three other candidates who were not available for the forum.

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: left to right: Allan Durden, Colin Parent, Mark Papenfuss, Kristine Alessio, Jack Shu, Laura Lothian

October 11, 2020 (La Mesa) -- At East County Magazine's virtual forum for La Mesa City Council candidates last month, candidates offered their ideas for addressing the compelling issues facing the city including police/racial justice/public safety issues in the wake of protests and a riot, downtown redevelopment, housing, homelessness, budget priorities, COVID-19 relief and more.

Three of the six candidates running participated in the forum: Councilman Colin Parent, as well as challengers Allan Durden and Jack Shu.

To view video of candidate forum, click here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tH6GkbU9ayo&t=3085s

To read highlights of the forum, and more information on all candidates, scroll down.

Three other candidates were unable to participate in the forum due to schedule conflicts, but provided separate video interviews via Zoom, which are posted below, along with highlights of their statements:

LA MESA-SPRING VALLEY SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION, PART ONE: AREA 4

By Robin N. Kendall

Photo:  Area 4 candidates Emma Turner, Abu-Bakr Al Jafri, and Sarah Rhiley

October 7, 2020 (La Mesa-Spring Valley) -- Two out of five trustee seats will be on the ballot this year for certain residents of the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District. One seat is held by current Board President Dr. Emma Turner, who is running for re-election against four opponents in Area 4. This area includes Bancroft, Sweetwater Springs and Loma Elementary Schools. Five candidates are running, and three sent in responses to our questionnaire.  Scroll down to view responses from Emma Turner, Sarah Rhiley, and Abu-Bakr Al-Jafri.

The other trustee seat was filled by Jim Long, whose term has expired. That seat will be filled by a newcomer from Area 5 which includes Avondale, Rancho, and La Presa Elementary Schools, as well as STEAM Academy and Kempton Literacy Academy. The Area 5 race will be covered in part two of this series.

IN LIVELY FORUM, FIVE CANDIDATES SHARED DIVERSE VIEWS IN EL CAJON CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 2 RACE

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left to right: Humbert Cabrera, Stephanie Harper, Juan Carlos "Charlie" Mercado, Michelle Metschel, and Martin Van Dinteren.

October 10, 2020 (El Cajon) – Housing and homelessness, racial relations, public safety, attracting businesses, the future of Parkway Plaza and the performing arts center were among the hot topics discussed at a virtual forum for five of the six candidates running for the El Cajon City Council District 2 seat, to represent the north central portion of the city.

Candidates also addressed controversies in the race, including a fake website set up to mislead voters about one candidate and residency questions raised regarding another.

The five candidates who participated are Humbert Cabrera, a planning commissioner and business owner, Stephanie Harper, a residential relief worker, Juan Carlos “Charlie” Mercado, an Iraq war veteran and veterans’ advocate, Michelle Metschel, a defense industry administrator, and Martin Van Dinteren, a general contractor and former city building inspector. (Update: View ECM's Zoom interview with Letitia Dickerson, the sixth candidate, who missed the forum due to an incorrect e-mail address provided by the city.)

Scroll down for highlights of our candidates forum, or click here to view video of the full forum.

IN LEMON GROVE CITY COUNCIL TOWN HALL, CANDIDATES ADDRESS CITY IN CRISIS, OFFER ONLY LIMITED SOLUTIONS

By John Sepulvado

View full video of ECM’s forum for Lemon Grove candidates:  click here.

Scroll down for highlights and analysis of the forum.

October 9, 2020 (Lemon Grove) -- In the past 25 years, Lemon Grove has been battered. Revenues for the city have plummeted as businesses have fled. Currently the city is experiencing a $1.5 million budget shortfall. Major thoroughfares are in disrepair, while major civic investments like the Lemon Grove Recreation Center sit underused as the city continues to struggle financially. 

Many of the buildings - including prime real estate on Broadway, sit empty and under-utilized. Many of the unhoused neighbors suffer from extreme health conditions that go untreated. Residents complain about policing from the Sheriff’s office. The Council spends most of its budget on policing through the Sheriff, yet some businesses and residents complain of crime and say more law enforcement protection is needed.  (This year’s crime stats have not yet been released.)

These problems are compounded by a lawsuit in which a candidate for Mayor - Christopher WIlliams - is suing the city over a meeting on his proposed marijuana dispensaries followed by a pool party with alcohol that ended in an alleged assault. The spectacular suit is driving a deep wedge among current and aspiring council members.

HIGHLIGHTS OF LEMON GROVE MAYORAL FORUM

By Kendra Sitton

Photo, left to right:  Councilman Jerry Jones, Kamaal Martin, Mayor Racquel Vasquez, and Christopher Williams

October 9, 2020 (Lemon Grove) -- On Monday, Sept. 14, all four candidates running for Mayor of Lemon Grove participated in a forum to discuss their visions for the city. Two of the candidates, Councilman Jerry Jones and Mayor Racquel Vasquez, already hold elected office. The other two candidates, Kamaal Martin and Christopher Williams, are political newcomers who say their backgrounds in finance will help the budget-strapped city.

The full forum can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVtSH4cwfEQ

Read highlights of the discussion are below.

 Each candidate’s standout quote, background and other views are included. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.

Each candidate had an opening and closing statement and answered questions about the budget shortfall, the possibility of disincorporating the city, racial equity, public safety, a shuttered youth rec center, housing, homelessness, blight and adding new businesses in the city.

Candidates were also asked about  Williams’ lawsuit against the city alleging an assault by Councilman David Arambula following an alleged discussion of proposed cannabis’ dispensaries at the Councilman’s home. (Arambula has contended he acted in self defense but did not notify law enforcement or colleagues on the Council.)

HIGHLIGHTS FROM EL CAJON DISTRICT 4 CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES FORUM

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

Oct. 9, 2020 (El Cajon) El Cajon’s City Council District 4 candidates participated in a forum sponsored by East County Magazine, moderated by ECM editor, Miriam Raftery, via Zoom.  John Sepulvado was the cohost and timekeeper.

Scroll down to read highlights and excerpts of the forum, which covered a wide range of issues with questions from the public as well as the moderator.  Topics covered included racial justice and policing, homeless, housing and renters’ issues, the future of Parkway Plaza and the Magnolia performing arts center, COVID-19,  budget priorities, hate crimes, pedestrian safety/street racing, and more.

You can watch the full forum, recorded on Zoom, at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Z213Qn_Cyo&feature=youtu.be

The three candidates vying for the seat are (alphabetically) Estela de los Rios (D), Phil Ortiz (R), and Dunia Shaba (R). A fourth candidate, Billy Thigpen, did not participate. He has suspended his campaign and encouraged voters in the Nov. 3rd election to support Estela de los Rios.

HIGHLIGHTS AND QUOTES FROM COUNTY SUPERVISOR CANDIDATES DISTRICT 2 FORUM

 

By Henri Migala

Photos:  Candidates Joel Anderson and Steve Vaus

 

October 9, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) - On September 21, East County Magazine hosted a web-based candidate forum for San Diego County's District 2 Supervisor race. Poway Mayor Steve Vaus and former State Senator Joel Anderson joined ECM editor Miriam Raftery, who moderated the event, to share their views on a variety of some of the most pressing issues affecting East County. They are running to fill the seat being vacated by Dianne Jacob due to term limits.

Below are highlights and a detailed analysis of the candidates' statements made during the candidate forum, as well as their bios. 

You can view video of the complete candidate forum at: https://youtu.be/o4KtvVquSV4

 ECM was able to host this forum thanks to funds provided by the Facebook Journalism Project Grant generously awarded to ECM.  A map and description of the current district, as well as how it will change with redistricting, is available below the forum highlights on issues including COVID-19, wildfires, homelessness, housing, racial injustice/public safety, county jail deaths, transportation/greenhouse gas reduction, revitalization of East County, cannabis, budget priorities, fiscal reserves, ambulance response times, proposed sand mines, community outreach and more.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors controls a $5 billion budget and makes decision over a wide variety of social service programs, and on issues affecting your health and safety. Four billion, or 80%, of that budget is related to state and federal programs the county is required to administer, and one billion, or 20%, can be used for the Supervisors to establish their priorities.  Most of the $1 billion comes from local property taxes, so it is important for local citizens to know what the supervisors’ priorities are.

 

GROSSMONT UNION HIGH SCHOOL TRUSTEE ELECTION: AREA 2

By Robin N. Kendall
 
Photo: GUHSD Area 2 candidates Elva Salinas, Jim Stieringer, and Justin Slagle
 
October 8, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) -- Voters in East County’s Grossmont Union High School District (GUHSD) Area No. 2 will need to study the candidates carefully to choose their next trustee. Three candidates with divergent views will help chart the course for the area’s teens and next generation of workers and college students. 

SANTEE SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION

By Robin N. Kendall
 
Photo, left to right:  Elena Levens-Craig, Dianne El-Hajj, Sarah Kirk
 
October 6, 2020 (Santee) -- In the growing city of Santee, five candidates are on the ballot for two school board seats (No. 2 and No. 4) in this K-8 grade district. Both incumbents are running for re-election.  Three have completed our candidates’ questionnaire.

PADRE DAM MUNICIPAL WATER DISTRICT ELECTIONS

 
 
 
By Mike Allen
 
Photos, top left to bottom right:  Division II candidates Augie Scalzitti, James Sly and Suzanne Till; Division IV candidate Augie Caires
 
 
September 30, 2020 (Santee) - The 2020 election will have two seats on the Padre Dam Municipal Water District’s five-member board of directors up for a vote, but only one is being contested.
 
The Division II seat that has been held by Augie Scalzitti for four terms dating back to 2000 has two other contenders: James Sly and Suzanne Till. In Division IV, Director Augie Caires is unopposed. 
 
Scroll down for our interviews with all four candidates.

OUTDOOR PUBLIC PLAYGROUNDS AND RECREATIONAL FACILITIES CAN REOPEN

By Miriam Raftery

September 30, 2020 (San Diego) – Yesterday, the State of California’s Department of Public Health approved reopening public outdoor playgrounds and other outdoor public recreational facilities, with new health and safety rules due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

East County's public officials reacted promptly to the news.

  • San Diego Supervisor Dianne Jacob called the announcement “Awesome news for families,” adding that starting today, around 100 county play areas will be reopened.
  • Poway Mayor Steve Vaus  posted a photo on Facebook yesterday of a reopened park in his city, stating, “Loved pulling down the caution tape and barricades.”
  • Santee announced on Facebook that all of its playgrounds were opened at 5 p.m. yesterday.
  • La Mesa is in process of reopening its parks, the city clerk’s office confirmed,  following inspections being done over the next day or two. 
  • El Cajon Councilman Gary Kendrick advised ECM that El Cajon is also in the process of reopening playgrounds this week. 
  • Lemon Grove’s staff was not immediately available for comment.

The new state guidelines, which do not apply to any indoor facilities nor to for-profit facilities, can be viewed in full here:  https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/Outdoor%20Playgrounds%20and%20other%20Outdoor%20Recreational%20Facilities.aspx

Below are highlights:

LEMON GROVE SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION: PART TWO

By Robin N. Kendall

Photo, left to right:  Blanca Brown, Yajaira Preciado and Cheryl Robertson.

September 29, 2020 (Lemon Grove) -- Voters in Lemon Grove will fill two full-term seats on the school board from a slate of three candidates. (In a previous story, we reported on the two candidates for the short-term seat.) The three candidates for the full-term seat are Blanca Brown, Yajaira Preciado and Cheryl Robertson. 

In spite of being one of San Diego’s smallest school districts with 4,000 students in grades preschool though middle school, Lemon Grove is a microcosm of what’s happening in schools and homes during the pandemic. Children are trying to study at home with parents instead of qualified teachers, joblessness has taken its toll, and the fight for racial injustice has taken to the streets.

Read on to learn what these three candidates say from the town that claims to have the “best climate on earth” and has a history of combating racial injustice in education. 

FIVE CANDIDATES VIE FOR THREE SEATS ON LEMON GROVE SCHOOL BOARD

Part 1 in a 2-part series

By Robin N. Kendall

September 20, 2020 (Lemon Grove) -- Voters have many choices this year to fill three open seats on the five-person Lemon Grove School Board. In November of last year, the district was faced with a vacancy when former school board member Katie Dexter resigned. April Leon was appointed to fill the seat until this election, when voters could choose who would serve the remaining two years. Now Leon, the appointed incumbent, is seeking to be elected. Greg Shibley is running against her.

East County Magazine emailed a set of questions to each of the candidates for school board. Below are the responses from April Leon and Greg Shibley, candidates for the short-term seat. In the next story, part 2, we report on the candidates for the full-term seat.

ECM TO HOST EL CAJON CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATE FORUMS

 

Video of district 2 forum is now posted.  Click here to view video. 

Video of the district 4 forum is now posted. Click here to view video.

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, top row:  District 2 candidates Humbert Cabrera, Stephanie Harper, Juan Carlos "Charlie" Mercado, Michelle Metschel and Martin Van Dinteren

Second row: District 4 candidates Estela de los Rios, Phil Ortiz, and Dunia Shaba

 

September 19, 2020 (El Cajon) - East County Magazine will host two forums for El Cajon City Council candidates:

District Four:  Monday Sept. 28 at 7 p.m.

District Two: Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 7 p.m.

The forums will be on Zoom and livestreamed on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyMagazine.  Video will also be posted later on our website for those unable to watch live.  

 

The public can send questions to editor@eastcountymagazine.org up until noon the day of the forum.

 

Ten candidates are on the ballot in the highly competitive District 2 and 4 races.  (In District 3, Councilman Steve Goble is running unopposed.)

All candidates in District 2 and 4 have been invited. Eight have agreed to participate. In District Two, participants will include Humbert Cabrera, Stephanie Harper, Juan Carlos Mercado, Michelle Metschel and Martin Van Dinteren.  In District Four, participants confirmed are Estela De Los Rios, Councilman Phil Ortiz, and Dania Shaba. The fouth candidate, Billy Thigpen, advised ECM that he is suspending his candicacy and endorsing De Los Rios.

Below is information on all candidates running in Districts 2 and 4. Click each name to view the statement of qualifications submitted to the city of El Cajon.

CREST ELEMENTARY SCHOOL’S NEW OUTDOOR EDUCATION PROGRAM SHINES IN THE ERA OF COVID

By Kendra Sitton

September 27, 2020 (Crest) -- Crest Elementary School has been shrinking for years, with less and less students enrolled every single year since 2003. Today, however, they have a list of over 90 families wishing to enroll in the school, some from outside the Cajon Valley Union School District. The difference between 2020 and the last 17 years is one program that makes outdoor learning a key part of education at the school.

The school in a rural area east of El Cajon held its first Crest Outdoor Immersion program over 10 days this summer. School officials plan to bring the program into a year-round setting in a two-year pilot program where students spend three days in the classroom each week and two days exploring the outdoors. The classrooms will have multiple grades in them.

At the first in-person Cajon Valley Union School District meeting since the pandemic began, the support for the program from students, parents, teachers and members of the board was evident as supporters wearing blue shirts filled the board room with chairs spaced apart.

VIEW VIDEO OF OUR SUPERVISORS CANDIDATE FORUM

 

September 27, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – On September 21, East County Magazine hosted a candidate forum for San Diego County's District 2 Supervisor race. Poway Mayor Steve Vaus and former State Senator Joel Anderson shared their views on hot issues including COVID-19, housing, homelessness, racial justice/public safety, wildfire preparedness and more.

Video is now posted. You can view the fll forum video by clicking the image at left, or click here: https://youtu.be/o4KtvVquSV4

The forum, held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was moderated by ECM editor Miriam Raftery and supported by a Facebook Journalism Project grant. Scroll down for details on the candidates. 

SANTEE COUNCIL APPROVES FANITA RANCH BEFORE VOTERS CAN WEIGH IN ON NOVEMBER BALLOT

By Mike Allen
 
September 24, 2020 (Sante) -- By a 4-1 majority, the Santee City Council approved the controversial Fanita Ranch development that will add nearly 3,000 homes and about 8,000 residents to a city that has been fighting over the project for most of its 40-year history.

COUNTY REMAINS IN RED TIER, AVOIDS NEW SHUTDOWNS FOR AT LEAST TWO WEEKS

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Dr. Wilma Wooten, San Diego County Public Health Officer

September 23, 2020 (San Diego) – The state announced yesterday that San Diego County will remain in tier two, the red tier, after narrowly keeping COVID-19 cases just below the threshold that would have shifted our region into the more restrictive tier one, or purple tier. That means that recently reopened businesses won’t have to shut down again or reduce current capacity for at least two weeks and schools retain the option to provide in-classroom learning.

Even though the state rejected the county’s argument to exclude San Diego State University’s outbreak cases from the county’s total, the region remained under 7 cases per 100,000 – but just barely, at 6.9 per 100,000 for the assessment period ending Sept. 12.

The state uses two metrics, case rates and testing positivity rates, to determine which tier to assign. On positivity rates, the county is doing much better at 3.8%, well below the 4.9% that would qualify for the even less restrictive orange tier. But both metrics would have to be met. 

To drop down into the orange tier, which would allow many businesses to increase capacity, the county would have to keep its positivity rate down and show a reduction in its case rase below the required threshholds for at least two weeks. Due to a lag time in assessments, the soonest that could occur would be three weeks from now.

HOMELESS HOUSING PROPOSED AT HOLIDAY INN: LA MESA HOLDS SPECIAL MEETING MONDAY, SUPERVISORS REVOTE TUESDAY ON PROJECT PUSHED THROUGH WITHOUT NOTICE TO CITY OR RESIDENTS

Story and photos by Miriam Raftery

File photo: cart at a homeless camp in Spring Valley

Updated with information on additional actions La Mesa has taken in the past week and will consider this week to help its homeless residents.

View background report provided to council members

September 17, 2020 (La Mesa) – The state and county want to convert a Holiday Inn in La Mesa to provide 139 units of transitional housing for the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless due to COVID-19.  Supervisors initially approved an application to the state for the “Homekey” project on Sept. 15 with no prior notification to the city of La Mesa, residents or businesses nearby. 

PARKWAY PLAZA SELLS AFTER OWNER DEFAULTS ON BONDS: FUTURE OF REGIONAL SHOPPING MALL IS IN LIMBO

By Miriam Raftery

September 15, 2020 (El Cajon) – Starwood Capital Group has lost ownership of Parkway Plaza Regional Shopping Mall in El Cajon and six other U.S. malls, after defaulting on Israeli-held bonds.  A ratings downgrade on the debt earlier this year triggered a clause allowing bondholders to take control of the properties. 

Six parties bid on the portfolio back in May, including Starwood.  The winning bidder, a partnership between Pacific Retail Capital Partners and Golden East Investors, have indicated they “plan to replace department store tenants or repurpose the malls into apartments or offices,” the Wall Street Journal reports, according to The Real Deal.

But El Cajon Councilman Gary Kendrick says getting rid of East County’s largest and only indoor regional shopping mall “would be unacceptable.”  He anticipates the mall’s new owners will face opposition to any such proposal from the City Council.

SANTEE MAYORAL CANDIDATES AND A COUNCIL CONTENDER AGREE CITY FACES RACIAL CRISIS, BUT CLASH OVER DEVELOPMENT ISSUES

View full video of ECM’s Santee Mayoral and City Council candidates forum

By Mike Allen

Photo: Santee Mayor John Minto and his opponent, Councilman Stephen Houlahan, City Council candidates Samm Hurst and Dustin Trotter

Both candidates for Santee mayor and one candidate for District 4 have varying opinions on issues but to one question about the biggest crisis besides traffic facing the city, the three agreed it’s racial intolerance. But the three voiced divergent views on housing and development issues, including controversies involving Fanita Ranch.

The candidates responded to questions at a forum held Sept. 10 via Zoom hosted by East County Magazine. Mayor John Minto and Councilman Stephen Houlahan, who is vying to become Santee’s mayor, along with City Council candidate Samm Hurst appeared at the hour and a half forum moderated by ECM Editor Miriam Raftery.

Dustin Trotter, a construction contractor running against Hurst, declined to appear, saying he had a prior scheduled meeting. He also did not respond to a request for a one-on-one interview via Zoom with ECM’s editor, but has responded to questions from ECM reporter Mike Allen, which will be published soon along with in-depth interviews with all Santee candidates.

LEMON GROVE CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES TO PARTICIPATE IN FORUM SEPT. 16

 

View video of our Lemon Grove City Council candidates forum:  Click here

 

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Lemon Grove candidates David Arambula, George Gastil, Liana Lebaron, and Teresa Rosiak

 

August 29, 2020 (Lemon Grove) – All four Lemon Grove City Council candidates have agreed to participate in a candidate forum hosted by East County Magazine on Wednesday, September 16 at 7 p.m. This is your opportunity to learn more about the candidates looking to represent you, as well as to ask questions on issues of importance community.

The forum will be held on Zoom due to COVID-19 and will be livestreamed at https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyMagazine.  Video will also be posted later at www.EastCountyMagazine.org and audio will be aired on KNSJ radio. You can send in questions before noon on the 16h to editor@eatcountymagazine.org. ECM editor Miriam Raftery will moderate the forum, which is made possible through a Facebook Journalism Project grant.

The four candidates are:

LEMON GROVE MAYORAL CANDIDATES SET TO DEBATE MONDAY, SEPT. 14

 

View a videotape of the forum now posted :

Youtube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVtSH4cwfEQ

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyMagazine/videos/10219161150363190

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left to right:  Councilman Jerry Jones, Kamaal Martin, Mayor Racquel Vasquez, Chris williams

September 5, 2020 (Lemon Grove)—On Monday, September 14 at 7 p.m., all four candidates running for the Lemon Grove City Council have agreed to participate in a candidate forum.  The forum will be virtual via Zoom. You can watch it live via livestreaming at https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyMagazine, and send in questions to editor@eastcountymagazine.org now through up to 2 p.m. the date of the forum. 

For those unable to watch live, a video will also be posted later on our news site at www.EastCountyMagazine.org and audio will be aired on KNSJ 89.1 FM radio at a date to be announced.

(Lemon Grove's City Council candidates will be in a separate forum on Sept. 16 at 7 p.m.)

East County Magazine thanks the #FacebookJournalismProject for a grant to help support our virtual candidate forums during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The four mayoral candidates are Mayor Raquel Vasquez, Councilman Jerry Jones, financial professional Kamaal Martin, and businessman Chris Williams. Below are more details on each candidate and links to their websites, as well as highlights of key issues.

FIRE DAMAGES ELECTRIC SYSTEM: SOME RESIDENTS COULD BE WITHOUT POWER FOR A WEEK OR MORE

By Miriam Raftery

September 8, 2020 (San Diego’s East County) – The Valley Fire has damaged the electric system across numerous rural communities that may be without power for days. Some communities left sweltering without power since Sept. 5 may not have power restored until Sept. 15 in order to repair fire damage. An additional circuit sustained weather damage to equipment.

The prolonged outage includes some circuits in Alpine, Barrett Lake, Buckman Springs, Campo, Dehesa, Dulzura, Jamul, Lyons Valley, Morena Village,  Potrero, and Rancho Palo Verde. With the 17,000 acre wildfire still burning and Santa Ana winds forecast tonight, the outages imperil residents ability to receive emergency notifications, open electric garage doors to evacuate, or pump water to drink or fight spot fires, unless they own generators.

SDG&E has alerted customers and posted estimated dates of power restoration on its outage webpage at https://www.sdge.com/residential/customer-service/outage-center/outage-map. The communities and circuits impacted are listed below. You can find your circuit on your SDG&E bill.

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